ESL Premiership was on LAN for the first time since 2019, and even though there was a lacklustre turnout from teams in the BYOC stage, the playoffs turned out to be a massive success.
Leading into the event, ESL UK announced there was an opportunity for four teams to play in two closed qualifiers and one open qualifier. If any team qualified from these formats they would receive full funding to the LAN, and instantly secure their place in playoffs.
In the first closed qualifier, eight teams received invites, with only one spot up for grabs. Verdant snatched this away from Endpoint in the final, securing their place at the LAN finals but also the first seed.
The second closed qualifier saw six teams competing. Once again Endpoint made the finals, but this time around were victorious over Raptors EC, acquiring the second seed.
Thus came the final stage to qualify, the open qualifier. 22 teams signed up but by the end of it, Ex-Coalesce took down ITB in the upper bracket final, granting them third seed. In the lower bracket finals, Raptors EC upset ITB to obtain the fourth and final LAN invite.
Entering the actual LAN setting starting on the 7th of September, only nine teams had signed up to the BYOC. This stage of the tournament was split into two groups: Group A, headlined by Invictum with Jack “Sorex” Renton-Cooper, and Group B, headlined by Ahoka, which was Shuaib “Shoobie” Saddique’s mix.
However, as events unfolded we actually saw Ahoka not even make it out of groups, being beaten by both Signals and Antenna Man. As anticipated though, Invictum won their group flawlessly and garnered the first seed into playoffs.
The teams that qualified for playoffs from the group stage went as such:
2nd: Antenna Man
4th: Royal Signals
As we entered the playoffs stage and our first stage games, there was anticipation it would be a clean sweep across the board for all of the invite teams. Sadly that was the case.
All the favourites should have won and they did. Endpoint ended up getting a 32-0 against Overpowered, definitely one for the history books.
As day one finished at Insomnia the only notable result would have to be Ahoka not making it out of groups, but apart from that, everything went as planned.
This is the stage in the tournament which started getting exciting.
The first game saw Raptors EC take on Verdant. There are a few interesting storylines here.
The first being that Marco “MMS” Salomone, who now plays for Raptors EC, had previously played with the core of Verdant on Viperio, most notably competing at the Blast.TV RMRs in Copenhagen earlier this year. Also, Ducky, who had previously played for Raptors EC, is now playing for Verdant. Secondly, we had people such as Rasmus “Zodi” Frølich, Arkadiusz “Ifan” Dabkowski and Daniel “Papp” Hart for Raptors EC play on the stage for the first time. With Mohamad “Ducky” Nourelden on Verdant playing his first stage game the previous day, a big question being asked was how will the prospect of playing on stage affect these individuals?
As it turns out, it only invigorated them further. Against the first-seeded team, Raptors swept them aside 2-0 with their AWPer Slaven “Awayken” Lyubenov boasting a 1.44 HLTV rating. With screams from the Bulgarian AWPer piercing through Birmingham, they secured the first spot in the grand finals.
Even though we had already seen an upset on stage, the second game didn’t quite produce the same level of excitement, as Ex-Coalesce lost on their map pick 16-2 and ended up bowing out 2-0 on a more contestable map two.
Endpoint came into this tournament as the main favourites, having won ESL Premiership 10 times previously, and only recently losing to ITB. However, now they had returned to a full UK core with the pickup of Oscar “Azuwu” Bell, it seemed likely they would reclaim their crown.
The stage is set, Raptors EC taking on the titans of UKCS, Endpoint.
The stars seemed to be aligned for Endpoint as they dominated Raptors EC map pick of Ancient 16-6. Seemingly they had kept on the burners from their semi-finals.
Vertigo was up next, and Felix “Frog” Bergerson had stated in an interview with UKCSGO that Endpoint were one of the best CT side Vertigo teams in Europe. However as chance had it, Raptors didn’t care about this. After a star-studded performance from Reegan “Reegan” Ward and Zodi, Raptors clinched the map out 16-14, and it was all to play for on Inferno.
With high hopes and joyous screams from the Raptors camp, they maintained a lead throughout the whole map. The entirety of the last map was continuously back and forth, but the underdogs time and time again seemed to get the better of Endpoint. With ifan and Awayken leading the charge, Raptors swept up the last four rounds of the game and crowned themselves as the champions. Alongside the ESL Premiership trophy they will also qualify for the ESL NC EU Qualifier for Season 19, the final step before ESL Pro League.
With half of their team playing on stage for the first time, this was a moment in their lives they will not be forgetting for a long time. Snatching the crown away from Endpoint, and causing quite a seismic upset in the UKCS world. An organisation that was completely set up by friends has now towered over ITB, Verdant and Endpoint in their quest for success.
There were a lot of negative messages from the community on Twitter based around ESL Premiership this season. Naturally, there were issues with the lack of social media presence from ESL UK and also the event being announced very late and from Insomnia’s end the ticket prices still being quite high. However, on the actual day, everything went perfectly.
People have these preconceptions that Insomnia is a cursed event. Yes, in the past there were issues. However, now there is a really strong admin team and from speaking to teams, alongside spectating the event, it ran flawlessly.
In my opinion, having ESL Premiership on LAN is a MUST for the scene. We have been asking for it for years, and as soon as it comes back, there is just negativity projected by the community. If we want to continue to see ESL support the UK it comes down to the players to actually attend these events. I really hope that we see the majority of the next ESL Premierships on LAN, and yes there will need to be some polishing with the format. But with actual constructive criticism and with the help from BCSA, we can create something great.